As people across the globe continue to be impacted by COVID-19, the disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus, biopharmaceutical companies have rapidly taken action to research and develop potential new medicines, while partnering with public health leaders worldwide, to combat this global public health emergency.
It’s neither the first time such an emergency has occurred, nor will it be the last. Within recent years, the global community has joined together to tackle outbreaks of Zika virus and Ebola, as well as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), among others. Biopharmaceutical companies are a unique and crucial player in this response ecosystem, offering substantial R&D expertise, resources and manufacturing infrastructure to speed the development of potential treatments.
Donating and studying existing compounds that could help treat the disease: At any given moment, biopharmaceutical companies have many compounds under investigation, as well as substantial knowledge about how these compounds work against certain diseases. During public health emergencies like the novel coronavirus, biopharmaceutical companies often identify, donate and manufacture investigational compounds for emergency use, which can help direct efforts to find effective treatments. For instance, in recent weeks, many companies have donated compounds formerly tested on other viral pathogens such as Ebola and HIV. Many companies have also examined their research portfolios for promising potential treatments, and some of these have moved forward for additional testing.
Developing potential vaccines: When a viral pathogen is the source of an epidemic—as is the case with COVID-19—vaccines may offer preventative treatment to help slow or halt the spread of the disease. No such treatment currently exists for COVID-19; however, biopharmaceutical companies are quickly working to study new or existing compounds that may have the potential to become an effective vaccine.
Working closely with public health authorities to share knowledge: Responding effectively to a public health emergency requires close collaboration between public and private organizations around the world to share insights that could accelerate treatment and prevention strategies. Already, leading PhRMA member companies are collaborating with relevant U.S. and global public health authorities, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), as well as public health authorities in China and Europe, to understand how pandemic preparedness platforms can be tailored to address the current emergency, and how to accelerate the development of potential treatments.
The impact of public health emergencies like the coronavirus can be far-reaching and may be felt around the world. Equally, it takes a coordinated, global response from all stakeholders to face such a challenge. In addition to government, academia and other parts of the private sector, the biopharmaceutical industry accepts and is prepared for its unique leading role to play in these situations, rapidly mobilizing its scientific expertise and resources to tackle these threats head on.